This post contains loads of articles categorised under Technology, Industry and Science. These are handpicked articles over the course of years for CAT Aspirants. This is the first of 2 posts. This post contains articles I had shared in 2018. Click on the following link to go to the next post: LINK here.
Every Article will have blurb, either written by me or an extract from the original post (mostly the latter) followed by the link to reach the article.
The way AI is designed will have a huge impact on the type of content you see. For instance, if the AI favors engagement, like on Facebook and YouTube, it will incentivize divisive content, because divisive content is very efficient to keep people online. If the metric you try to optimize is likes, or the little arcs on Facebook, then the type of content people will see and share will be very different.
Wonderful article that throws light on the human side of algorithms and it’s effects on individuals who consume it.
“Maybe it’s a particularly shapeless garment or a noisy punk track. If you know the source of the suggestion, then you might give it a chance and see if it meshes with your tastes. In contrast, we know the machine doesn’t care about us, nor does it have a cultivated taste of its own; it only wants us to engage with something it calculates we might like. This is boring. “I wonder if, at the core of fashion, the reason we find it fascinating is that we know there’s a human at the end of it,” Pieratt says. “We’re learning about people. If you remove that layer of humanity from underneath, does the soul of the interest leave with it?””
A quick read about emojis that have become an integral part of our lives in this ever connected era.
“There is one heart emoji, however, that communicates love so deeply and effectively that it’s shocking it isn’t more frequently used. That emoji is the Wi-Fi heart: 💓.”
“The digital world’s emphasis on speed inhibits reflection; its incentive empowers the radical over the thoughtful; its values are shaped by subgroup consensus, not by introspection. For all its achievements, it runs the risk of turning on itself as its impositions overwhelm its conveniences”
How to balance freedom and safety? Start by ensuring that the digital world, like the real one, has places where law-abiding people can enjoy privacy. Citizens of liberal democracies do not expect to be frisked without good cause, or have their homes searched without a warrant. Similarly, a mobile phone in a person’s pocket should be treated like a filing cabinet at home. Just as filing cabinets can be locked, encryption should not be curtailed. A second priority is to limit how long information on citizens is kept, constrain who has access to it and penalise its misuse fittingly. In 2006 the European Union issued a directive requiring mobile-phone firms to keep customers’ metadata for up to two years. That law was struck down by the European Court of Justice in 2014. Misuse of police data should be a criminal offence for which people are punished, not a “mistake” absolved by a collective apology.
I have been following Crypto currencies for a long time for now. I have (searched, read &) tried to explain how cryptocurrencies and blockchain works in several formats. This is by far the best format or analogy that explains blockchain technology in layman terms. If you have very less info about how blockchain / cryptocurrencies / bitcoin works, please read this article. “You ponder a bit, and write down a different problem. More than a brainteaser, this one has a funny property: It’s impossible to solve except by guess-and-check. And, while it’s easy to check whether your guess is correct, it’s very hard to find the right guess. If you guessed once a minute it would take you 10 years, say, before you got the answer.”
Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential.
“Under normal circumstances, most of the stuff flowing through your sensorium, you don’t remember,” Eagleman explained. “What happens in a life-threatening situation is that everything gets written down. Everything is retained in memory.” Because the brain is not used to memory of such density, he continued, “the brain’s interpretation is that the whole thing must have gone more slowly.”
“Picture this: You’re home from work for the evening. You curl up on the couch, steel your nerves, maybe pour yourself a glass of wine, and open the dating app on your phone. Then for 30 minutes or so, you commit to a succession of brief video dates with other users who satisfy a basic set of criteria, such as gender, age, and location. Meanwhile, using speech- and image-recognition technologies, the app tracks both your and your dates’ words, gestures, expressions, even heartbeats.
Afterward, you rate your dates. And so does the app’s artificial intelligence, which can recognize signs of compatibility (or incompatibility) that you might have missed. At the end of the night, the app tells you which prospects are worth a second look. Over time, the AI might even learn (via follow-up experiments) which combination of signals predicts the happiest relationships, or the most enduring.”
“The doctors I met often struck me as arrogant and unwilling to really sit and listen, making it easy for the complexities surrounding my illness to be misconstrued or not even conveyed, despite my desire to communicate them. Perhaps these doctors would have blamed me for being a bad oral historian. I grew increasingly nervous and insecure as doctors asserted their patriarchal authority. I developed iatrophobia, a deep dread of doctors. And I started to see myself as someone damaged, with an unreliable testimony. My body, my medium for experiencing the world, was transmogrified during these clinical encounters into something without personal meaning. Doctors overlooked what my illness felt like to me and how I experienced it within the context of my life, foreclosing other possible lines of therapeutic options—and my need for understanding and care.”
Someone with reasonable comprehension in English and ability to understand basic science should be able to comprehend most parts of this. Unlike other days, not posting any excerpt from the article as I wanted to make this note. An article that talks about LHC, CERN, Last few decades of Theoretical physics, and what the author feels about it, and should physics move on from holding on to unification theory? Good read. Must read for CAT aspirants.
Cup and straw both had to be clean to assure no germs would assail the children (or the able-bodied men). So even the method by which straws were dispensed became an important hygienic indicator. “In some stores, customers are permitted to choose their own straws, and this system would work very well if customers would not finger the straws,” The Practical Soda Fountain Guide lamented.
That led to the development of the straw dispenser, which has a deep lineage. Already, in 1911, the thing existed where you individually pop a straw into reach. That’s it, right below, with the rationale written in: “Protects straws from flies, dust, and microbes.”
Second, the technical skill required to create digital technology has dramatically decreased, marked by the rising popularity of so-called no-code platforms. Much as with auto mechanics and electricians, the ability to work with digital technology is increasingly becoming a midlevel skill. With democratization comes commoditization.
You can’t rapidly prototype a quantum computer, a cure for cancer, or an undiscovered material. There are serious ethical issues surrounding technologies such as genomics and artificial intelligence. We’ve spent the last few decades learning how to move fast. Over the next few decades we’re going to have to relearn how to go slow again.”
These technologies will need to be exquisitely attuned to their subjects. Yet users and developers alike appear to think that emotional technology can be at once personalised and objective – an impartial judge of what a particular individual might need. Delegating therapy to a machine is the ultimate gesture of faith in technocracy: we are inclined to believe that AI can be better at sorting out our feelings because, ostensibly, it doesn’t have any of its own.Instead of questioning the system of values that sets the bar so high, individuals become increasingly responsible for their own inability to feel better. Just as Amazon’s new virtual stylist, the ‘Echo Look’, rates the outfit you’re wearing, technology has become both the problem and the solution. It acts as both carrot and stick, creating enough self-doubt and stress to make you dislike yourself, while offering you the option of buying your way out of unpleasantness.
This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality. If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become. This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy — and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans. The cycle feeds itself.
The nearest known black hole to Earth, which carries the highly memorable name V404 Cygni, is about 8,000 light-years away. While that’s a mere hair’s breadth in cosmic terms, it’s far enough that we can’t study it up close. (For comparison, Voyager 1—the farthest human-built probe—is a little over 17 light-hours away at the time of writing.) The closest supermassive black hole (one that exceeds 100,000 times the mass of the sun) is even farther away: 26,000 light-years. That’s the monster at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A star”).
Instagram has polls, but the responses to those are binary, which makes it hard to gather nuanced opinions or solicit feedback about several things at once. Answers via the Questions feature are also collected and tiled neatly on a separate page within Stories, not your direct messages, so it’s much easier to scan responses. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t allow for private replies, but if you want to continue the conversation with someone you can always start a DM thread.
“If we want people to donate to us, we need to be in the current century and the current environment,” Karen Scussel, the executive director of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, told me. The group, which provides services for foster youth, is launching a virtual-reality experience to help potential donors understand what it’s like to be a foster kid. Child Advocates is also starting to come up with metrics to show its impact, and talk about how it is serving more children each year. Scussel now tells potential donors that money invested in Child Advocates can help save public money in the long run, because the organization can prevent kids from dropping out of school. “Rather than say, ‘I need money,’ you have show yourself as an investment and return of investment,” she said.”
Although the geometry of soap-film junctions is dictated by this interplay of mechanical forces, it doesn’t tell us what the shape of the foam will be. A typical foam contains polyhedral cells of many different shapes and sizes. Look closely and you’ll see that their edges are rarely perfectly straight; they’re a little curved. That’s because the pressure of the gas inside a cell or bubble gets bigger as the bubble gets smaller, so the wall of a small bubble next to a larger one will bulge outward slightly. What’s more, some facets have five sides, some six, and some just four or even three. With a little bending of the walls, all of these shapes can acquire four-way junctions close to the “tetrahedral” arrangement needed for mechanical stability. So there’s a fair bit of flexibility (literally) in the shapes of the cells. Foams, while subject to geometrical rules, are rather disorderly.
Light pollution is often characterised as a soft issue in environmentalism. This perception needs to change. Light at night constitutes a massive assault on the ecology of the planet, including us. It also has indirect impacts because, while 20 per cent of electricity is used for lighting worldwide, at least 30 per cent of that light is wasted. Wasted light serves no purpose at all, and excessive lighting is too often used beyond what is needed for driving, or shopping, or Friday-night football.
The Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light-years from edge to edge, Fermi reasoned, which means that a star-faring species would need about 10 million years to traverse it, even if moving at a very modest velocity of 1 percent of the speed of light. Since the galaxy is more than a thousand times older than this, any technological civilization will have had a lot of time in which to expand and colonize the whole galaxy. If one species were to fail in this endeavour, another wouldn’t. Consequently, if intelligent species were out there in any appreciable numbers, they would have been here already. And yet, we do not see them on Earth or in the solar system. For Fermi and many thinkers since, this constituted a paradox.
Brilliant passage from the guardian. Must read! Starts off slowly and becomes much interesting.
“My hunch is that one of the things festivals may be doing really well is preparing us for a fully automated future. Artificial intelligence and robotics are starting to absorb the more routine tasks of our jobs, mental and physical. So what activities will we start to turn towards and value next?.”
Brilliant discussion about digital and otherwise. Gamification and social media. Must read. What’s more brilliant? To read the article, click the link and disconnect from the internet. This article is from a magazine called Disconnect.
“To back up, I think the first mistake is to see the internet as “virtual,” separate from the “real world,” and as some new space. I call this habit “digital dualism,” and it is what makes possible the reductionist “good or bad” framing that most thinking about the web is currently wrung through. If we understand digitality as real, as part of this world, then we can ask different questions. The digital, like other flavors of information, is part of the self; it is talking, it is family, it is learning, and as such, can’t coherently said to be good or bad. To ask if talking is good or bad is a silly question. The point should be to ask if specific affordances, designs, and arrangements of specific digital tools and platforms are beneficial or not for specific people. Who benefits? When? Where?”
A brilliant read, that unexpectedly connects two different facets of science/nature and goes on to build on what the future possibly should be.
“Proposals are now circulating for a free-standing tower or ‘space elevator’ that could reach up into the geosynchronous orbit around the Earth. Such a tower would be an alternative to rocket-based transport, and drastically reduce the amount of energy it takes to get into space. Beyond that, we can imagine space-based megastructures many kilometres in size, powered by solar energy, perhaps encompassing whole planets or even stars.”
“I was interested in questions that could be answered with very little money [and] very little technology,” she recalls. Even so, she had a bold idea. With some effort—and luck—she hoped to accomplish something with her kitchen-blender project that had bedeviled scientists for over a century: to count the number of cells in the brain—not just the human brain, but also the brains of marmosets, macaque monkeys, shrews, giraffes, elephants, and dozens of other mammals.
A short form article that talks about changing the measurement systems used to position/ measure celestial bodies of the universe. More like a system upgrade. Quick and Interesting read.
“In the future, when spacecrafts are sent to other planets or when the rotation of planet Earth is studied, a new reference frame will be used. On 30 August, at the General Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Vienna, the new international celestial reference frame ICRF3 was adopted, allowing for more precise directional specifications in space. It is based on the accurate measurement of over 4000 extragalactic radio sources. TU Wien (Vienna) played an important role in the international consortium, which was in charge of providing the new realization.””
“Brilliant long form article that talks about universal theories that can work for all scales. Is that even possible? Gravitation was a universal theory but it was based on approximations. Goes on to discuss Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and String theory. Interesting read.
“But Feynman was ultimately disappointed with what he had accomplished—something that is clear from his 1965 Nobel lecture, where he said, “I think that the renormalization theory is simply a way to sweep the difficulties of the divergences of electrodynamics under the rug.” He thought that no sensible complete theory should produce infinities in the first place, and that the mathematical tricks he and others had developed were ultimately a kind of kludge.”
They were given a series of tasks to test their memory, ability to focus, and sensitivity to language sounds. On the first task, subjects listened to a series of consonants, with three presented every second, and had to recall the last six consonants they heard, testing their working memory. In a related task, which also tested working memory, they were shown a series of one or two syllable-length nonsense words, then they were prompted with another set of words and had to immediately indicate whether or not the items in the second set had been present in the first. At the time, neither subjects nor researchers knew how central the results of these working memory tasks would be to measuring high-level aptitude.
All this is on your mind as you wait for your piece to go up. You’ve just written 1,200 words on Trump, norms, Twitter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the future of the Democratic Party. Will you downplay its importance (“So I wrote a thing”), or promote it with a tweet thread? Will you retweet praise, or only muted endorsements, detailed enough not to appear self-congratulatory? Will you — boldly — retweet your haters? Or will your piece disappear like all the others, carried along the swift-moving current of the social feed only to be buried in the riverbed and ignored forever? But just when despair has reached its peak, it shows up on the homepage. People tweet lines from your story, or screenshot whole paragraphs, taking care to highlight certain sentences. Not the sentences you would highlight, but people care! They not only read your writing, you see; they want to show others that they read it. Your writing is a badge of intellect.
The “h-index,” for example, attempts to measure the productivity and impact of a particular scientist using citation data – and it has become a kind of currency. If a scientist’s h-index is their bitcoin – convertible through salaries and research grants – then citations are the blockchain on which it depends. Now, again, the same researchers producing the same types of research are being rewarded disproportionately, leaving less room for those with less of this quantifiable esteem.
This over- and under-predicting is embedded into how we conceive of the future. “Futurology is almost always wrong,” the historian Judith Flanders suggested to me, “because it rarely takes into account behavioral changes.” And, she says, we look at the wrong things: “Transport to work, rather than the shape of work; technology itself, rather than how our behavior is changed by the very changes that technology brings.” It turns out that predicting who we will be is harder than predicting what we will be able to do.
Pepper and other emotional robots are particularly designed, for example, to make eye contact and study how we gaze back at them. “This actually evokes a feeling that the machine even cares about us,” says Hirofumi Katsuno, White’s colleague at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. “The machine tries to understand me or understand us.” Depending on your cultural perspective, being stared at by a machine might seem like an intrusion or it might evoke a sense of comfort, as if someone is kindly watching over you.
A tough passage. Perhaps slightly tougher than CAT. There is a good chance that few paragraphs from a passage like this is taken for RC in CAT. Must read! “The situation is a bit like an endless tournament of noughts and crosses. Because there is a finite playing field (an array of nine squares) and a finite number of elements (noughts and crosses), eventually any given outcomes must reoccur. Any region of space, of course, would have vastly more components than a game of noughts and crosses, but the principle still holds: the time cycles or spatial repetitions might be inordinately spread out, but chance recombinations would make them inevitable nonetheless.”
“Godfrey’s plight is emblematic of the estimated 150,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in India. “Awareness is the main issue,” says Mandeep Kaur, a breast-cancer surgeon at Manipal Hospital in New Delhi. Many experts, including Kaur, blame late diagnosis, stemming in part from poor disease awareness, for the alarmingly high breast-cancer mortality rate in the country. Godfrey, whose cancer is now in remission, is one of the lucky ones—one in every two Indian women with breast cancer do not survive. Only 66 percent live past five years of being diagnosed, compared to rates of around 90 percent in the United States, Australia, and other Western countries.”
“That’s one of the powers of Amazon,” Olson told me. “They’ll be able to increasingly use the data that we have on our search history and product purchase history to improve the return on investment for advertisers, as well as the experience for users.” It sends us ads for products we probably want when we’re already in a buying mood, allows us to click on those products, and, without even making us reenter our credit-card number or address, ships those products to our front door.
A not so long read. Puts forth brilliant ideas. Feasible or not, well, only time will tell.
“In recent years, Big Tech companies have been subjected to scrutiny for perfecting a dark art pioneered by commercial newspapers, radio, and television: attracting and holding our attention, in order to sell access to our senses to paying advertisers. Whereas readers, listeners, and viewers were customers paying for some commodity, commercial electronic media learned how to profit by transacting directly with vendors while reducing us, and our data, to a passive commodity at the heart of the transaction.”
This is an article that can exactly appear in cat. Not a part of it. The full article, with all the opinions and thought processes.
“The workings of this vast, multi-million-dollar machine are complex, and not all journals and publishers are the same. University presses (some of which, like those of Oxford and Cambridge, are charities) tend to charge lower prices, and some journal titles are owned by learned societies who attempt to rein in the publishers’ greedy ambitions. Another interesting recent development is the move to “open access” (OA) publishing. Research Councils in the UK have for some years made it a requirement that all research they fund be made available free to all on publication. And only last month, a group of national research councils in Europe, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council, introduced “cOAlition S”, a resolution to require all the research they fund to be OA by 2020.”
Short article that discusses the bear cub viral video about the side that is usually unknown to those who watched the video. The 2 minute odd video is also available inside the article.
“For many people, a two-and-a-half-minute video of a baby brown bear trying to scale a snow-covered mountain was a life-affirming testament to the power of persistence. As it begins, the cub is standing with its mother on the side of a perilously steep ridge. The mother begins walking across, and despite slipping a few times on the loose snow, she soon reaches the top. Her cub, following tentatively after her, isn’t so fortunate. It loses its footing and slides several feet. It pulls itself together and reattempts the ascent, before slipping again.”
“Yet despite the seemingly ever-growing embrace of digital learning in schools, access to the necessary devices remains unequal, with a new report from the Pew Research Center finding that 15 percent of U.S. households with school-age children lack high-speed internet at home. The problem is particularly acute for low-income families: One in three households that make below $30,000 a year lacks internet.”
“To be sure, humanity will eventually need to escape Earth to survive, since the sun will make the planet uninhabitable in about 1 billion years. But for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. “
“Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb — startups that banked on the promises of the sharing economy — are now worth tens of billions, with plans go public. (Lyft filed for an IPO on March 1.) These companies and the pundits who hyped them have all but abandoned the sharing argument that gave this industry life and allowed it to skirt government regulations for years. Sharing was supposed to transform our world for the better. Instead, the only thing we’re sharing is the mess it left behind.”
“But the secrecy also insulates Cognizant and Facebook from criticism about their working conditions, moderators told me. They are pressured not to discuss the emotional toll that their job takes on them, even with loved ones, leading to increased feelings of isolation and anxiety.” http://bit.ly/2C9WpcF
“Some scientists believe that air purifiers are little more than a Band-Aid concealing a much larger problem. Ultimately, they don’t address the source of air pollution.”
“YouTube has removed a lot of the worst videos that used to be rife on the platform, but they just keep coming, finding new ways to get around the algorithm. The most recent major scandal involves the discovery of a “soft paedophile ring” operating in YouTube comments, where men leave chilling comments on videos of children and exchange numbers to share further images, as reported by The Verge.”
“Mathematics is not just a sequence of computations to be carried out by rote until your patience or stamina runs out. Those integrals are to mathematics as weight training and calisthenics are to football. If you want to play football at a competitive level, you’ve got to do a lot of boring, repetitive, apparently pointless drills. Do professional players ever use those drills? Well, you won’t see anybody on the field curling a weight or zigzagging between traffic cones. But you do see players using the strength, speed, insight, and flexibility they built up by doing those drills, week after tedious week. Learning those drills is part of learning football.” http://bit.ly/2Nudv9H
A very interesting read on how to “”Make the right decisions, the easy decisions”” in an effort to become less distracted. It’s ironic how I am sharing this on social media – considering that a ton of people get push notifications from the different websites & apps using which we share these articles – causing distraction.
“It’s possible that we can’t build willpower and that self-control isn’t so effective, after all. What often looks like strength of resolve is really the result of an environment or mindset that makes the right decisions the easy decisions.”
“When caucasianblink.gif appeared, her eye travelled over it left to right as if it were 100,000 words. The little strings that connect human eyes to human eyes and human mouths to human mouths tugged her along with the expression: she bounced her eyebrows, bobbed her head back, and blinked along. Sometimes she even made a sound that corresponded with the movement, a hushed zoom, or a whoop, that rose and fell with the arc of the drama.”
“Public trust in science wavers because of competing studies. One day coffee is good for you, the next it’s not. How should the public know what studies to trust?
O’Connor: If you’re a consumer, you should be looking for scientific articles that aren’t a one-off but rather package a lot of data from various studies. This should be true for journalists, too. There’s tremendous incentive to publish things that are surprising or novel because that’s how you get likes and clicks. But standards shouldn’t be about having popular articles about individual studies. Instead, when you’re writing about a topic, it ought to include a combination of good studies that show the science has been progressing for a while. That will give a much less misleading picture of the science.”
“When Chris Godfrey learned in early January that the record for “likes” on an Instagram post was held by the celebrity and businesswoman Kylie Jenner, he took it as a challenge. He remembers thinking: “Could something as universal and simple as an egg be great enough to beat that record?””
“The business model depends on advertising, which in turn depends on manipulating the attention of users so they see more ads. One of the best ways to manipulate attention is to appeal to outrage and fear, emotions that increase engagement. Facebook’s algorithms give users what they want, so each person’s News Feed becomes a unique reality, a filter bubble that creates the illusion that most people the user knows believe the same things. Showing users only posts they agree with was good for Facebook’s bottom line, but some research showed it also increased polarization and, as we learned, harmed democracy.”
“Corn allergies are relatively rare, and ones as severe as Robinson’s are rarer still. (Many people unable to eat whole corn can still tolerate more processed corn derivatives.) But to live with a corn allergy is to understand very intimately how corn is everywhere. Most of the 14.6 billion bushels of corn grown in the U.S. are not destined to be eaten on the cob. Rather, as @SwiftOnSecurity observed in a viral corn thread, the plant is a raw source of useful starches that are ubiquitous in the supply chain.”
“He sat down at his desk and his eyes rested upon the block of call buttons which had so nearly proved his undoing. There were 12 buttons; white, black, and red. Carey took out his knife and cut the cord that connected them with the other desks. The block fell to the floor; Carey picked it up, took a sheet of paper from a pigeon hole and wrote: ‘I am sending you the buttons from my desk, as I shall not want them any more. Keep them as a souvenir of the past. Will see you tonight and explain.’” http://bit.ly/2FAqfts
“That’s what Amazon looks like, too: an online retail giant that also boasts successful business units in home-automation, streaming media, ad services, manufacturing, and cloud computing (Amazon Web Services now accounts for more than 10 percent of the company’s revenue). Those successes were hardly driven by the purity of visionary innovation; each one came along at different times, as Amazon recognized market opportunities in which it had a unique ability to capitalize.” http://bit.ly/36jdRI5
A word of caution. After clicking this link, you might want to turn off Wifi/turn on Airplane mode on your device to be able to read this wonderful passage about browser fingerprint. You also get to see how your browser finger print looks like, on the top of the article. 🙂
“While trackers won’t necessarily match your activity with a face or a name, the data they derive from websites you visit, social platforms you use, searches you perform, and content you consume, can be considered personally identifiable. With this data, brokers build a general profile of who you are (age range, location, language, interests, etc.) and sell this insight to advertisers and marketers who use it to relentlessly serve you personalized ads and content recommendations across the web.”
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